Tag Archive: So

Peter Gabriel + Jenny & Linnea @ LG Arena, Birmingham, 28 November 2014

Tonight to the last time for this particular Gig Junkies team at the LG Arena before it morphs into the Genting Arena. We’re here to see a performer who founded one of the biggest bands in rock history way back in 1967, who became prog rock legends. Just seven years in he left, they went on to sell over 140 million records – but he didn’t do too bad, businessman, singer-songwriter, record producer, humanitarian activist, and a solo performer in his own right – tonight he’ll be performing his classic,  most commercial and ridiculously successful 1986 album in it’s entirety – welcome tonight Mr. Peter Gabriel, performing “Back to Front’ including ‘So’ in it’s entirety.
PG-11
When Genesis started out in the late 60’s early 70’s they were different, prog rock, bizarre costumes and art. Internal frictions amongst other reasons meant in the mid 70’s Gabriel walked – paving the way for drummer Phil Collins to take up the vocal mantel and the commercial success the other members went on to have as Genesis, solo artists and supergroups is legendary. Meanwhile Gabriel stuck to his creative roots issuing his own unique solo albums. Then came ‘So’. To put in context just how successful this album went fivefold platinum in the states, triple platinum the UK, spawning five singles and a Grammy nomination. Single ‘Sledgehammer’ with the iconic plasticine animation, reached #1 in the US Billboard charts and won a record ten MTV awards. It is still the most played music video ever on MTV.

But commerciality isn’t, and never has been, what Peter Gabriel is about. It’s concept, music, journey, detail, art, performance. Tonight we will be treated to yes, ‘So.’ in it’s entirety – but also other songs in an entirely different manner.

First up at 8pm we have two ladies on stage, who will both be part of Gabriel’s band later in the evening, Jennie Abrahamson and Linnea Olsson; Abrahamson being accompanied by Olsson on cello.  Abrahamson is from Sweden, a place known for breeding bands and artists in the line of “northern melancholy”; she’s only  kept a slight tint of that moodiness in her richly coloured and playful pop tunes. Critics have called her a “younger, more accessible Kate Bush”.

And then – slightly earlier than planned – Peter Gabriel takes to the stage. Tonight he’ll be performing with his ‘So’ live band – bass-wizard Tony Levin, guitarist David Rhodes, keyboardist David Sancious and drummer Manu Katche. The set appears clutter with equipment,  blazing white light blast across the stage from the sides. Gabriel gives us a hint of tonight’s performance. It will be a ‘meal’ of three courses – the starter is semi acoustic and experimental, the second, a savoury dish, is electronic, the third, “if you survive that far that is”, the complete album of ‘So.’

‘What Lies Ahead’ is a work in progress, with Levin on guitar and Olsson on cello, Gabriel sings from his piano – beautifully haunting. The arena house lights are still on as the other band members join him on stage.  ‘Come Talk to Me’ has an acoustic drumbeat, and Celtish rising melody – the crowd give a big cheer upon completion. This entree is laid back, like a studio music session we’re invited into. And then the next song starts up – stripped back – but we recognise it – ‘Shock the Monkey’ which rises to a funky beat. He get’s up clapping – and we’re singing. Class.

Next up ‘Family Snapshot’ – Gabriel on piano – just his voice – before the house light’s drop, the lights shone in monotone, ballad, power, beauty, ballad. And the cluttered stage comes alive – there are five triple lighted mobile rigs – like triffids rising from the shadows.

We’re into part 2. ‘Digging in the Dirt’ is dark electronic funk – the ‘triffids’ float around the stage, up and down, round and round, the two screens at the side of the stage take the feeds from many stage cameras, edited monotone, industrial effect – white circles on the floor – filmed from above, him in the centre. Gabriel takes to the front of the stage – he’s walking around, becoming a character – tambourine in hand – to huge applause. ‘The Family & the Fishing Net’ is prog rock electronic darkness, one of the lighting ‘triffids’ travels to the front of the stage – the crew dressed in boilers suits and masks – the ‘triffid’ becomes part of the performance – a camera is in its lit ‘head’ – and we can see Gabriel interacting in detail on the screens. And next up – ‘triffid’ back to is place behind the set – the band ‘fights’ with all five of them in ‘No Self Control’ – almost a fight against industry. ‘Solsbury Hill’ written about the real spiritual place in Somerset, the set is finally sepia from monotone – Gabriel and the band are skipping – we’re singing – an upbeat, joyful, smiley song.

Big Cheer – ‘Why Don’t You Show Yourself’ – is the last track from part 2 – and then here we go. Part 3. ‘So.’

The rising ‘Red Rain’ sets the stage bright red – heavier and far more powerful live than on album – beautifully performed. Then a cheeky little beat – before THAT melody – ’Slegehammer.’ We’re singing, Gabriel’s doing the Pop’eye biceps move – a reminder of the video – before him and his band put their best feet forward and put the moves in.

‘Don’t Give Up’ is quite beautiful – Abrahamson taking on Kate Bush’s vocals and doing them more than justice as at the end of the song, Gabriel and Abrahamson embrace. The album rolls on and the band delivers – we’re entranced. ‘Mercy Street’ starts off stripped back before the haunting dark melodies, the triffids are on the move, Gabriel lying on the floor in his circle – the ‘triffids’ have surrounded him, and gaze down at him.

And then the set is garish and bright. The song is big, everything is big. It’s ‘Big time’. We’re singing. It’s bigger than big. ‘We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)’ is dark and menacing – very ‘1984’ atmospheric chant.’In Your Eyes’ an African rhythm, Abrahamson , joins with Arabesque vocals. “ … I am complete…. in your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches…. in your eyes, the resolution of all the fruitless searches…. in your eyes …I see the light and the heat…. in your eyes….”

‘So.’ maybe over – but what a treat – a standing ovation and total applause as Gabriel introduces the band. Band introduced, and he acknowledges the road crew – however, said crew have nicked another crew member’s wombat – and we chant ‘let the wombat go.’ Needless to say a huge applause to the crew – who tonight have done an amazing job. The band bow, and back by poplar demand, turn their backs to the audience and bow again.

And to encore – ‘The Tower that Ate People’ electronic, industrial despair, that even Reznor couldn’t compete with.  The ‘triffids’ march to the front of the stage and line up in a barrier, the band and Gabriel immersed in red smoke. And Gabriel is indeed eaten by a tower. Wow.

“For all the liberties won by young people. For the 43 young Mexican students who recently handed themselves across to be assassinated – this is for all the young people who stand up for the freedom we take for granted. For all those young people who are risking their lives….”

This can only be one song. ‘Biko’.
Stephen Biko was a black South African anti-apartheid activist, arrested in 1977, badly beaten and who later died of his injuries – fighting to stand up from freedom.

And we sing. Our fist in the air in Gabriel solidarity. The cameras focuses in on his face – even today, this track released in 1980, raises the hairs on your arms, and brings a tear to Gabriel’s eye. We chant along as one by one the band members leaving the stage – leaving the drummer beating away, encased by the ‘triffids’…..

Peter Gabriel’s “Back to Front’ is performance, art, beauty, power, fragility, darkness and the light. It is an entirety – from semi acoustic, to full on raging electronic enthralling visual and audio delight. Every element from sound through to rig, film on screen, and beautiful vocals is considered in detail. Pure treat, stunning and a pure delight.

Towers may not have eaten the punters tonight, but the monkey was well and truly shocked.

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Setlist:
What Lies Ahead
Come Talk to Me
Shock the Monkey
Family Snapshot
Digging in the Dirt
Secret World
The Family & the Fishing Net
No Self Control
Solsbury Hill
Why Don’t You Show Yourself

So (in it’s entirety)
Red Rain
Sledgehammer
Don’t Give Up
That Voice Again
Mercy Street
Big Time
We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)
This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
In Your Eyes

Encore:
The Tower that Ate People
Biko

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Pictures courtesy of Ken Harrison. Review for Gig Junkies.